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morphine withdrawal

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment

Morphine is a potent pain reliever that comes from the opium poppy plant, making it part of the opiate family. Usually, someone receives a morphine prescription when their bodies develop a tolerance for other opioids, and they’re still struggling with chronic pain. However, like most opioids, morphine is highly addictive, and when people try quitting, they can experience morphine withdrawal symptoms that cause physical and psychological distress. 

When someone misuses and abuses morphine, it can quickly lead to tolerance and dependence. Once the body becomes physically and psychologically dependent on morphine, someone can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the drug. Morphine withdrawal can be like a nasty case of the flu, but with more intense psychological consequences. 

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Morphine withdrawal happens in phases, with the milder symptoms starting first and gradually increasing as the drug exits the system. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can begin as soon as 12 hours after the last dose. Of course, symptoms will vary depending on the user’s tolerance, health condition, and the length of their abuse and if they abused other substances like alcohol or other opioids. 

Physical Symptoms

The first symptoms of morphine withdrawal are likely to be physical. These can go from mild muscle aches to abdominal pain and seizures. These are the most common symptoms:

  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate

Psychological Symptoms

As someone progresses through the withdrawal phases, they’ll start struggling with psychological symptoms as well. These usually include intense cravings for the drug, which poses a high risk for relapse and overdose. Other psychological symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Uneasiness
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Irritability 

Morphine Withdrawal Timeline

Like with most opiates, morphine withdrawal timelines vary from person to person. Withdrawal usually occurs in three distinct phases that can start as soon as 12 hours after the last dose and often peak by the end of the first week. 

  • On the first day, anywhere between six to twelve hours after the last dose is when the body first notices the absence of morphine. Tearing, runny nose, sweating, insomnia, and anxiety are relatively common at this stage. 
  • During the next few days, symptoms usually worsened as the body tried to adjust to the bloodstream’s lack of morphine. Uncomfortable symptoms like nausea and vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, are met with fever and chills. Many compare this stage to the flu. 
  • By day 4, symptoms will start reaching its peak and slowly decrease in severity until day 10. However, nausea and muscle aches continue, and psychological symptoms like agitation, anxiety, and uneasiness. 
  • After day ten, most symptoms subside. However, some people might still struggle with psychological symptoms of depression, irritability, anxiety, and drug cravings. 

While rare, some people will also struggle with the post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). When this happens, psychological symptoms will last weeks or months, sometimes up to 24 months.

Morphine Withdrawal Symptoms Treatment

There is no approved medication to treat morphine withdrawal symptoms directly. However, cutting morphine “cold turkey” is not advisable as symptoms can be troublesome. Although morphine withdrawal isn’t life-threatening if someone experiences hallucinations, delusions, or depression, it can lead to fatal consequences. Not to mention, as people go through the different stages of withdrawal, it’s common for them to go back to morphine or other drugs to ease their symptoms. These relapse episodes can be fatal as users are at higher risk of overdosing on a drug binge. 

Morphine detox can be challenging and dangerous without the assistance of a professional. Ideally, someone should seek a medical detox facility to withdraw from morphine safely. Under medical supervision, they could receive medication-assisted treatment that helps taper morphine and make the withdrawal process more comfortable and safe. Some medications used in this process include:

  • Methadone 
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naloxone
  • Clonidine 
  • Benzodiazepine 

However, these drugs should only be part of a medically-supervised detox process. They’re meant to act as a short-term solution to ease withdrawal symptoms and help people get off potent substances like morphine. But, by themselves and without supervision, these drugs can also be highly addictive, which is why checking into a medical detox center is so important. 

Other medications that might be part of the process include sleep aids, anti diarrhea, anti anxiety medications, antidepressants, and other drugs to help with nausea and other side effects of withdrawal. 

Is It Time to Seek Help?

Morphine addiction does not have to be a death sentence; in many cases, people can seek treatment and find sobriety. However, because of the severe consequences of withdrawal symptoms, having the right support system is critical to prevent deadly outcomes. 

Most people starting their morphine addiction treatment are recommended a detox program paired with a partial hospitalization program (PHP) that eases withdrawal symptoms and provides patients with a secure and supervised environment to begin their recovery. Many treatment facilities can help structure the right treatment plan. 

Types of Addiction Treatments

Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment. 

Outpatient Programs: For those with a mild addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment: While rare, long-time addicts might experience worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent these symptoms from harming them physically and psychologically, a physician might recommend specific prescription medications to help through the withdrawal process under a medically supervised program. Some people might need medication maintenance therapy to maintain long-term sobriety.

Individual Therapy: Beyond the morphine detox process, it’s paramount to tackle the addiction focusing on the addict’s mental health. Through individual therapy, people can understand what drives addictive behavior and see if there’s an underlying cause of their addiction. 

Group Therapy: Building a strong and sober support group is a critical element of addiction recovery. By attending group meetings or 12-step programs, individuals can continue their sober life and continue to learn relapse prevention techniques, even months after detox. 

Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help users find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment. 

Get Help

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid dependence, ask for help immediately. Please, call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized substance abuse treatment programs.

We offer unique and personalized treatment plans because we believe no two addictions are alike. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it. Whether you or a loved one is thinking about starting drug abuse treatment, don’t delay it. Start your addiction recovery journey today. 

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